Notice: for those of you that wish to play Tales of Zestiria without knowing what happens, we recommended skipping this article to avoid spoilers.
Since Tales of Zestiria was released in Japan earlier this year, there’s been a lot of talk about the game, and not all of it has been positive. While dedicated fans have debated various aspects of the game (such as its wonky camera controls), the standout issue has been the way that Bandai Namco handled one of Zestiria’s leading female characters.
Skip this bit if you’re familiar with this story: Alisha, one of the characters in Tales of Zestiria, was initially advertised by Bandai Namco as the game’s heroine. Once the game was actually released, it quickly came to light that Alisha leaves your party early in the game and is unavailable for the remainder unless you buy a DLC add-on package that features her in her own story. Worse yet, Alisha’s exit from the party is unceremonious and abrupt, with the rest of the group barely reacting to her departure.
Disappointed Tales fans will tell you that it isn’t just the fact that Alisha left, but rather the manner that she left in. That she was very obviously meant to be the game’s heroine and is one of the earliest characters to join your group, but is abruptly removed from the party for no justifiable reason. She doesn’t die, she isn’t just injured in the line of duty. She just… leaves. Then there’s the fact that her replacement—a character that is introduced several hours into the game—is somehow more important and valuable to the party in the grand scheme of things.
Fans say that this draws attention to Tales of Zestiria’s weak writing, and the fact that Alisha can be seen accessed separately if you purchase her DLC package reeks of content that should have been in the game being cut from it. Now, fans make the “cut content” argument a lot—but in this case, it actually holds water, and prompted Tales series producer Hideo Baba to issue an apology for making his fans uneasy. Now, speaking with Famitsu, Baba has decided to discuss the subject more openly. You can find the relevant quotes below.
Famitsu: About the issue with the “heroine” this time, we believe that there are three main points that have caused the trouble. There’s been information out there that makes Alisha seem like the main heroine. She leaves the party in the middle of the story, and there are DLC costumes for her despite the fact that she isn’t around as much. After hearing about this, we still played the game, wrote our impressions, and thoroughly enjoyed the title; however, we still feel it was an unfortunate incident. Honestly, we wouldn’t blame those that were attracted to Alisha due to the information sent out prior to the release, or through the DLC, and thought “huh?!” for better or worse, after finding out what happened.
Baba: We understand what you mean. Allow me to explain a little more about the information revealed prior to the release of the game. From the very first piece of information until now since the game has been released, we never mentioned that Alisha was the “heroine” to you folks at Famitsu or other media in any of the documents we’ve provided.
Again, the story was constructed while keeping Alisha’s departure in mind, so we examined her costumes over and over again with the development team, so that Alisha’s DLC costumes could be worn by Rose. However, since we wanted to avoid possible spoilers about their costume compatibilities, we did not reveal that information prior to the availability of the DLC.
Famitsu: We, too, agree that the documents your company have sent us never explicitly stated that Alisha as the “heroine” of the game. On the other hand, in Tales of Asteria, the official profile for Alisha states “heroine,” and parts of articles by the media also introduces her as the heroine, so it appears that there was indeed some kind of unfortunate misunderstanding of information out there.
Baba: Yes. Some of the media out there presented something different than the what was in the document that we provided. Again, about the official profile seen in Tales of Asteria, that’s something we are completely responsible for. The development team for it is different from that of Tales of Zesteria’s, and we’re deeply remorseful about the fact that incorrect information was conveyed, and has caused confusion among our fans. The Zestiria team that worked days and months throughout the past three years were truly heartbroken by all of this.”
Famitsu: Allow us to share a bit of our opinion, but perhaps if Alisha’s departure was announced without any spoilers ahead of time, it would’ve been easier to understand the heroine and DLC situation. Additionally, about two weeks after the release of the game, the Alisha After Episode DLC was revealed, and we received a comment from you for our magazine, which stated that you felt that Alisha’s “feelings” could have been better represented in the game.
Baba: If I could use this opportunity to talk a little more about Alisha’s situation… In the story, she had two important roles. The first being her role to invite Sorey to the outside world. The other is her agony in being at the lowest seat for succeeding the throne, and the conflict Sorey faces about whether he can make his dream come true when he can’t even help a single girl. And realizing that the “company” he wanted wouldn’t be a possibility. However, these detailed psychological nuances were not exactly conveyed in the game.
Famitsu: Without question, some things are better communicated visually, but for things that aren’t as clear, players can use their imagination. In Alisha’s case, it seemed like there was a bit of both.
Baba: Alisha doesn’t stay in the party for as long as other members, but as far as story goes, the role she plays is definitely an important one. As a result of Sorey meeting Alisha early in the story, he finds out about the world outside of Izuchi (Sorey’s hometown). Even after becoming a Shepherd, Alisha becomes a partner for changing the world for the better; however, this leads to her role in Sorey knowing about his “failure”.
With the power of being able to take out large enemy armies, he can’t do anything about politics or the feeling of people. To top it off, even with the power of a Shepherd, he can’t help a one human, Alisha, see the Seraphim, and as a result of repeatedly trying, it took a toll on his body.
Baba’s answer isn’t entirely satisfactory, of course. For starters, he doesn’t address the manner in which Alisha is removed from the party. Then there’s the fact that Bandai Namco had to be aware of how fans perceived Alisha’s role in the story prior to Tales of Zestiria’s release, and if they weren’t, they probably weren’t looking in the right places. There’s a lot that’s being left unsaid, but unfortunately, it appears that this the best those that are seeking answers will get, for now.
Tales of Zestiria will release in the West in Fall 2015 for PlayStation 3. Meanwhile, there are rumours of Namco porting the game to the PlayStation 4 as well.